Weighty Jobs: Some Occupations Prone to Obesity

Encourage employees to take basic steps to push away extra pounds

By SHRM Online staff Jun 12, 2012

Certain occupations have a high incidence of workers reporting weight gain, often tied to sedentary or high-stress positions, according to a survey by talent placement firm CareerBuilder. The survey was conducted Feb. 9-March 2, 2012, with responses from more than 5,700 workers in the U.S. across industries.

Among those most likely to report gaining weight:

  • Travel
  • Attorneys/judges.
  • Social workers.
  • Teachers.
  • Artists/designers/architects.
  • Administrative assistants.
  • Physicians.
  • Protective services (police, firefighters).
  • Marketing/public relations professionals.
  • Information technology professionals.

Causes for Weight Gain

Two in five workers (44 percent) said they have gained weight at their current job, on par with previous studies. Twenty-six percent of workers gained over 10 pounds, and 14 percent gained over 20 pounds. Just 16 percent said they lost weight.

More than half of workers (54 percent) attributed their weight gain to sitting at their desk most of the day, and roughly the same number (56 percent) said they eat their lunch there. Other culprits causing extra inches around the waist line include:

  • Eating because of stress—37 percent.
  • Eating out regularly—23 percent.
  • Having to skip meals because of time constraints—19 percent.
  • Workplace celebrations (potlucks, birthdays)—18 percent.
  • The temptation of the office candy jar—16 percent.
  • Pressure to eat food co-workers bring in—10 percent.

Lunch and Snack Habits

When asked how often they eat out at work for lunch instead of bringing their meal from home, 53 percent of workers said they do so at least once a week, 23 percent at least three times a week and 11 percent at least five times a week.

Ten percent of workers indicated they eat lunch out of the vending machine at least once a week, and 71 percent said they snack during the workday.

Exercise Routines

When it comes to exercise routines, 59 percent of workers said they exercise regularly. Ten percent said they don’t exercise.

“More and more companies are implementing healthy living initiatives in the workplace,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of HR at CareerBuilder. “Twenty-eight percent of companies provide gym passes, workout facilities or wellness benefits for their employees, but only 10 percent of workers say they take advantage of the benefit. It’s important to tap into those resources to stay healthy and energized and potentially more productive.”

Tips for Staying Fit

In addition to maintaining a regular workout routine throughout the workweek, Haefner recommended encouraging employees to take the following steps to push away extra pounds:

  • Take more steps throughout the day.Take the stairs instead of the elevator or stop by a co-worker’s desk instead of sending an e-mail. Get off at an earlier train stop or bus stop so you can walk part of the way to the office.
  • Snack healthy. Snacking can seem innocent when done in small bits and pieces, but the extra calories will start to add up quickly. Keep plenty of veggies and fruits in the office fridge so you have a healthy choice.
  • Pack your lunch.Bringing your lunch to work helps you better control your portions and saves money.
  • Choose water.Drink water throughout the day instead of caffeinated drinks or juices. This helps make you feel full faster and cuts down on the calories.
  • Sneak in some exercise. Take daily walks with a co-worker, replace your chair with an exercise ball for part of the day and keep free weights at your desk—all quick and easy solutions to help stay fit.

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